I've always been very proud of my half-Icelandic, half-Irish heritage. I grew up in Dublin with a sister, an Irish father and a mother from Iceland. I count myself fortunate in that ours was a happy home with lots of good food. Mum had first one, then two busy boutiques and somehow there was always a great meal ready for us in the evening.
For my new book, as well as chatting to Mum about the food she loved as a child, I've been lucky enough to gather wonderful stories and recipes from friends (including my mother-in-law Darina) about the food their mothers cooked for them. I hope that readers will be inspired to explore the book, try the recipes and pass them down to the next generation.
Beetroot Soup with Chives (Serves 8-10)
My mum started making beetroot soup for dinner parties in the 1980s and back then I thought the vivid pink concoction was the epitomé of chic. I still do, and love it that something so stunning can be that good for you.
900g whole raw beetroot
225g onions, chopped
1.2 litres chicken or vegetable stock
110ml cream or milk (or a mixture)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
110g sour cream or crème fraîche
2 tbsp finely chopped chives
Remove any leaves from the beetroot, then cut off most of the stalk, leaving about 2cm still attached to the root.
Leave the tails of the beetroot intact. Wash the beetroot carefully under a cold tap.
Do not scrub them (you don’t want to damage the skin or to cut off the top or tails, otherwise the beetroot will "bleed" while cooking, losing important nutrients); simply rub off any dirt with your fingers.
Put the beetroot in a saucepan and cover with cold water and a pinch of salt. Place over a medium heat and bring to a simmer.
Cover, then continue to simmer for 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the size and age of your beetroot. They are cooked when their skins rub off and a knife just slides into the centre.
While the beetroot cooks, melt the butter in a large saucepan over a low heat. When melted, add the onions and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 8-10 minutes until soft but not coloured.
When the beetroot is cooked, rub off the skins and discard, then cut into chunks. Add to the onions with the stock. Bring to a rolling boil, then pour into a blender and whiz until it is quite smooth (be careful, beetroot will stain). Return to the pan over a medium heat, stir in the cream and/or milk, then taste and adjust the seasoning.
Serve hot, topped with a spoonful of sour cream or crème fraîche and a scattering of chives.
Recipes From My Mother by Rachel Allen is available on Loot.co.za for R299. Click here to purchase